Saturday, March 1, 2014

"The Confession of Charles Linkworth"

"The Confession of Charles Linkworth"
by E.F. Benson

A prison doctor recounts a series of unusual experiences following a convict's execution.  

My Reaction (with SPOILERS):
Eh... It was ok, but nothing special. 

--  A ghost who uses the telephone!  Fancy that!  What'll they think of next?!

--  The ghost of Charles Linkworth is far too articulate to be especially spooky.  When Dr. Teesdale asks who's on the other end of the phone line, he gets this answer: "'Charles Linkworth.  I thought you knew.  I am very miserable.  I can't leave the prison-- and it is cold.  Will you send for the other gentleman?'  'Do you mean the chaplain?' asked Dr. Teesdale.  'Yes, the chaplain.  He read the service when I went across the yard yesterday.  I shan't be so miserable when I have told.'"  ...You almost expect them to chit-chat about the weather-- or casually discuss the experience of "crossing over".   

-- There are one or two unsettling moments and aspects of the story, though.  For instance, despite M.R. James' disapproval of the laziness of physical horror, I got a shiver at the description of the ghost's appearance, with all its signs of death by hanging. 

-- "Dr. Teesdale knelt as he heard the words of the Absolution."  Dr. Teesdale seems a strange sort-- an independently wealthy medical man who is deeply interested in the paranormal (or occult)... and also apparently a Christian.  He's not he first such amalgam in these short stories.  It makes me wonder about E.F. Benson's own beliefs as the highly educated son of an archbishop.  Was his dabbling in ghost stories merely that of one who enjoyed reading and writing them, or did he honestly believe in-- or wish to believe in-- the existence of ghosts? 

--  "'Take the rope that is there and burn it, Parker,' he said.  There was a moment's silence.  'There is no rope, sir,' said Parker."   *GASP*   ...Was that supposed to be a twist?